Da Gama confident of taking Highlands back to the top
JOHANNESBURG – Former Orlando Pirates coach Owen Da Gama is targeting his fourth title in the National First Division (NFD) with Highlands Park.
His side are currently on top of the log, having opened up a six point gap between themselves and second placed Real Kings.
Highlands Park played out to a 0-0 stalemate this past weekend against Richards Bay FC at Makhulong Stadium. They are currently unbeaten in 10 league outings.
Da Gama won the NFD title with Dynamos and with Silver Stars over a decade ago, and although he acknowledges there’s a long way to go still, he doesn't hide the fact that he is targeting automatic promotion.
“We have to keep on collecting points. It is not easy. This league is tougher than the Premier Soccer League. There’s a lot of experienced coaches like Jomo Sono (of Jomo Cosmos), Shaun Bartlett (of University of Pretoria) and Kostadin Papic (of Royal Eagles).
“Another challenge that is facing us is the Under-23 rule. You have to start with two Under-23’s and have three on the bench. So it is not easy at all but we have done well so far,” Da Gama explained.
Highlands Park have been busy in this transfer window. They have signed Pentjie Zulu from Mthatha Bucks, Luckboy Mokoena from Real Kings and brought back Moeketsi Sekola from his loan spell at Chippa United.
“I didn’t do much when I arrived at the club in the middle of the season. I gave them the self-belief and instilled tactical discipline in our approach,” Da gama explained. “Our team is playing a good attractive brand of football.
“At the same time we are solid at the back. Our focus is not on our opponents. We are not worried about the gap. We are focusing on one game at the time. There’s still eleven matches that we have to play,” Da Gama said.
Da Gama has been around in the coaching world.
He commenced his coaching career back in 1992 when he guided Dynamos, and four years later was at the helm when they returned to top flight football, following their relegation in 1993.
He has had spells with Silver Stars, Free State Stars, Orlando Pirates, Bloem-fontein Celtic, Platinum Stars and at Bafana Bafana level, where he was assisting Shakes Mashaba and at the same time coaching the Under-23 national team.
“When I joined Highlands I decided to bring Allan Freese in as my assistant. We worked together for eight years at Platinum Stars. We did well. We even won the Telkom Knockout and finished second on the log in one of the seasons,” Da Gama elaborated.
Highlands Park will welcome Royal Eagles at Makhulong Stadium on Saturday at 3.30pm.
“This is going to be tough match. Eagles are trying to getting away from relegation zone. Such opponents are not easy to play against. You don’t know what to expect against them because they change their team from time to time,” Da Gama said.@minenhlecr7